Saturday, 27 April 2019

Raiders win away from WHL final, Oil Kings look to force seventh heaven

Raiders RW Brett Leason, left, knocks down Oil Kings D Conner McDonald.
    The Prince Albert Raiders are on the verge of returning to a place they last visited in 1985.
    The Edmonton Oil Kings are trying to stave off elimination for the first time in 2019 WHL playoffs.
    The stakes are as high as they have ever been this season for both clubs when they meet in Game 6 of the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series on Sunday at Rogers Place in Edmonton at 2 p.m. local time.
    The Raiders lead the conference final 3-2. If they win on Sunday, they will advance to the WHL Championship series for the first time since 1985, when they won the league crown and advanced on to capture the Memorial Cup.
Parker Kelly cranked up his physical game for the Raiders.
    If the Oil Kings prevail on Sunday, they will force a series deciding Game 7 back in Prince Albert on Tuesday. Edmonton is hoping to close out the series with two straight wins in order to return to the league final for the first time since 2014.
    That year, the Oil King won the league title and moved on to win the Memorial Cup.
    In winning the last two games of the series, the Raiders looked more like the club that finished first overall in the WHL’s regular season standings posting a 54-10-2-2 record to get rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said his squad still has work to do to lock up the series, but he believes his players are hitting their stride once again.
    “We adjusted a few different things a couple of games ago,” said Habscheid. “I think the guys’ energy has really been the difference.
    “We’re just hounding. I think our speed is back. I think earlier in the series they (the Oil Kings) really didn’t see our speed, and now they are seeing it.”
Matthew Robertson (#22) wasn’t happy with the play of his Oil Kings.
    The Oil Kings are trying to rediscover their form that allowed them to top the Central Division and finished fifth overall in the WHL standings with a 42-18-4-4 mark. They were an honourable mention in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
    While they dropped a 4-0 decision to the Raiders in Game 5 on Friday in Prince Albert, Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said his team needs to play better, but he will also remind his players they had moments where they played well on Friday.
    “This wasn’t the result we wanted,” said Lauer. “I really liked our first period.
Tensions have increased between the Oil Kings and Raiders.
    “They got a couple of good bounces, a power-play goal and then one that snuck through. I liked our game in the first period. The last two periods P.A. played well.”
    The Raiders set the tone delivering a number of big hits in Friday’s win. Power forward Parker Kelly made about five to six big hits, and he said he needs to keep up his physical play.
    “Obviously, that is something I need to be doing every game,” said Kelly. “That kind of helps me get engaged, and I think helps create chances for my linemates and myself.”
    Habscheid was pleased with the effort Kelly brought in Game 5 and thought it was unfortunate Kelly missed an open net on a third period scoring chance.
    “He was flying around,” said Habscheid. “He just couldn’t hit the open net that is all on that one.
Brett Leason, left, gets set to deke around an Oil Kings defenceman.
    “Poor guy, I felt bad for him, because that was probably his best game of the playoffs. He played great. It would have been nice for him to get a little reward on that goal.
    “He really led that physical nature for us. He is tough to play against, a heart and soul guy. He was real important early on.”
    The Oil Kings were in a state of dismay when came to reflecting on how they played in dropping Game 5.
    “We just need to come out way better than we did,” said defenceman Matthew Robertson. “It was embarrassing what we did.
Dylan Myskiw has been solid in goal for the Oil Kings.
    “We just need come out and worry about what we can control. We need to play better.”
    Oil Kings offensive defenceman Conner McDonald said his team had too many self-inflicted wounds on Friday with turnovers and bad breakouts. McDonald said his club will be looking for redemption at home in Game 6.
    “Our backs are up against the wall now,” said McDonald. “Our true colours are going to come out.
    “We have to be ready, and I think we will be.”
    Still, the Raiders will do whatever they can to avoid having to play a winner take all Game 7 back in Prince Albert. Raiders star right-winger Brett Leason likes his team’s chance of advancing, if they can duplicate Friday’s effort on Sunday.
Ian Scott’s focus has been sharp in goal for the Raiders.
    “I know we put together a great performance,” said Leason. “I know we had everybody going from top to bottom.
    “This is just a good example of what we can do when everybody is going. It feels great to get the win and refocus quick. We will get focused on Sunday.”
    The winner of Eastern Conference final will face the Vancouver Giants in the WHL Championship series.
    On Friday before 4,886 spectators at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C., the Giants slipped past the Spokane Chiefs 3-2 in Game 5 of the WHL Western Conference Championship series. With the win, the Giants took the best-of-seven set 4-1.
Jake Neighbours will try to make more noise for the Oil Kings.
    Bowen Byram, Justin Sourdif and Brayden Watts netted singles for the Giants. Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Ethan McIndoe replied for the Chiefs.
    David Tendeck stopped 27 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Giants. Bailey Brkin turned away 29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Chiefs.
    The Giants finished second overall in the WHL’s regular season standings at 48-15-3-2 and were rated sixth in the final CHL Top 10 rankings. The Chiefs finished eighth overall with a 40-21-2-5 mark.
    Vancouver last made the WHL final in 2007 falling in a series deciding seventh game to the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Giants hosted that year’s Memorial Cup tournament and downed the Tigers in the Memorial Cup title game 3-1.
    NOTE – Lauer was fined $1,500 by the WHL office Saturday for his post-game comments to the media following his team’s 4-0 loss in Game 5 in Prince Albert. 
The Raiders hope to celebrate a few goals in Edmonton on Sunday.
    The bench boss criticized the officials and their supervisors in his comments.

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